The 2560th Buddha Jayanti was celebrated amidst much fanfare in Nepal. To say the occasion was celebrated in a grand way would be an understatement! Right from the number of pilgrims and foreign dignitaries that flocked the country to the scale and ambition displayed by the organizers of the Third International Buddhist Conference showed that Nepal wanted to send a clear message that the teachings and philosophies of its most well known National Luminary is as relevant and revered in this age of chaos and confusion.
The highlight of the occasion was the third International Buddhist Conference. The conference was held part in Kathmandu and part in Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha. The event in Lumbini was inaugurated by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari amidst national and international dignitaries. Representatives from more than 28 countries took part in the event. Buddha’s worldwide following and the scale of the event can also be attested by the fact that messages sent by US President Barrack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and UN Secretary General were read during the event.
Several people highlighted the importance of promoting Lumbini as the birthplace of Buddha and as a centre of Buddhist philosophy and learning. Already a major destination for Buddhist followers, Lumbini still has the potential to grow into one of the major religious destinations of the world. The government wants to tap into this huge potential and develop Lumbini and Nepal into a must-go place for Buddhists around the world. It can be to Buddhists what Mecca is to the Muslims!
The conference ended with a ten point Kathmandu Lumbini Declaration. Among the highlights of the Declaration is the plan to develop Lumbini as a major centre of Buddhist faith, to set up an interfaith dialogue centre and to create an international forum to take forward the action plan through bilateral and multilateral support.
The government’s ambitious plan comes at a time when Nepal has already declared that it will be observing 2018 as Visit Nepal year. By aggressively promoting Nepal, particularly Lumbini, as a major spiritual and Buddhist destination in the world, the government can achieve its target of attracting more tourists during Visit Nepal 2018. The tourism sector can only benefit from such ambitious plans embraced by the government.
Now all that remains is to implement these plans and make sure that Nepal truly fulfills its potential and develops into the foremost Buddhist destination. Bringing in more religious tourists to Lumbini can provide the necessary impetus to kick-start the Visit Nepal Year 2018.